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Black Don’t Craic Series: Part 3, Meeting Steven

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I talked to man who fishes on the Renvyle coast for lobster. Steven is a short but solidly built man, who’s wind-swept ruddy face broke into a million wrinkles when he gave a less-than-toothy grin. It really didn’t take a lot of effort to get him talking. I just wandered out to the front stoop of the pub to have a smoke. That’s all you need, really.

When he revealed he was a lobster fisherman, I used what I remembered of David Foster Wallace’s “Consider the Lobster” essay to fill in some awkward gaps in the conversation. I may have impressed him when I asked about hard-shell shedding. Speaking of shedding one’s shell, Steven took that opportunity to switch gears and tell me about the missing tips of his two fingers.

“You know how I lost them?” he asked. Of course I didn’t. I guessed that the hunt for crustaceans may have led to missing fingers. Turns out, Steven had been careless with the lawnmower. The blade took off half of his ring-finger and the tip of his middle-finger. “What did you do?” I asked. He didn’t pass out from the trauma like I would have, Steven ran himself down the road to the doctor.

Apparently lawnmower incidents are rather common in the Irish country-side. In fact, when Steven arrived to the hospital, there was already a man in the waiting room who was missing half a foot. He kicked his lawnmower. I asked Steven what happened to his missing fingers. Urgency made him leave the fingers in the grass bag. However, he did retrieve them later. He planted them in his backyard: “They’ve yet to sprout anything.”

I asked him if, after two years since the incident, he’s more careful with the mower. He admitted that he doesn’t fool with it anymore. He bought himself a donkey instead, it’s a good environmental alternative. I think Steven and I both learned that unlike lobsters and crabs, humans can’t grow back their limbs.

There’s that dark Irish humor


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Black Don’t Craic Series: Part 2, Quick-Wit

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I’d like to think that I’m quick on my feet when it comes to witty repartee, but the Irish have me beat. I should have known better, of course. The Irish gift of gab is real and I’m so delighted that can experience it for the next month. I’m a natural talker, I’ve been getting in trouble for excessive chattiness since I was a small child. I finally feel at home in Ireland, where the conversations keep rolling the like the hills.

I love being chatty, but I’m a slow talker. I’m especially slower when I’m two pints of Smithwicks in. Collin Coynes, the proprietor of Paddy Coynes, asked me and Noah a series of questions in rapid-fire: Are you with the school? Do you know so-and-so? How long you here? What do you teach? How many student did you bring? ‘Bout how old are the kids? Which cottage are you staying in. . .

It didn’t take too long after that, for Collin to become our best friend. That’s the thing; everyone I’ve met in the Paddy Coynes establishment is like a new best friend. I’m especially flattered that whenever I introduce myself, the locals freak out over my name. Four different people have said: “Charish?? Whoa, that is a class name. Real class. My god, Charish, is it?”

Yesterday, I met Jackie, a world-class champion fly fisherman, who drank Coors Light and bragged about the poetry he wrote. I gave him a little shit about drinking piss beer in Ireland and he took it in good great stride. He and Collin, who was apparently not working that evening, revealed secrets of Guinness, like when a pint was finally ready to drink, that it’s wasn’t originally an Irish beer, and if you hold the glass to the light, the beer was a beautiful ruby red. So I went ahead and ordered a pint. For research. While I was talking with Jackie about his poety, which was hanging on the wall behind him, the cook came out from the back and asked roughly: “How long have you been in town?” I told him, just two days. He shook his head and remarked: “And you’ve managed to become friends with this kook?”

We all howled in laughter. That is apparently what you call “a good craic.”

Now I know I’m only a visitor, an American tourist who will be gone in two weeks. My group and I will invest money in this small village, which seems to be growing because of the visiting university students. But I feel like I’m at home. Tullycross has been so welcoming, it’s like going down to Arkansas to see my family.

Pub craic is easy enough to fall in love with, but I can’t drink like I thought I could. Yesterday was a little too much rollicking fun with three Guinness, three Smithwicks and three whiskeys. It was an unholy trinity that I paid for the following morning. I’ll be in Tullycross for two weeks, so I should learn to pace myself. After all, I’ve got to set a good example for the students. . .